It was the worst kind of day to go downtown to the big city. Sideways sheeting rain/sleet, the last minute frenzy of holiday shoppers and the ever so tentative relationship with my GPS.
Construction met us at our destination and kids hushed knowing this was the hard part. Having learned the hard way that our big van is too tall for nearly all parking garages, we searched for street parking. Four trips around the block and we finally spied a 30 minute loading spot. Perfect.
Each one grabbed their bag of men’s socks to donate to the shelter. Kyler’s co-op class had collected them and our family volunteered to deliver them. 70 pairs of men’s socks. When you have to walk around all day and some nights, your socks get pretty worn out I’d explained to them on our drive. We hustled across the street in the pouring rain, rang the bell and noted that all the windows were covered with metal bars.
The director (Rick, who is in the video on the link above) met us at the doorway, welcomed us in and thanked the kids for the socks. He offered to show us around. We walked through their kitchen where they prepare and provide meals every night for the homeless of Seattle. He showed us the dispatch office where they work every night to match people with shelter. Freezers full of donated food and Christmas gifts ready to be wrapped, socks, scarves and the most basic things. And I just wasted an entire evening stressing and fretting over finding the right gift for someone for Christmas. It seems so very meaningless now.
We walk upstairs and are overwhelmed with the smell of cigarette smoke. I watch kid faces and no one says a word. They tell me later “I had to breathe through my mouth mama, my nose was burning!”. I would tell them I was proud they hadn’t been rude and had listened with respect. He shows us a room where they offer long term housing for seniors, most of whom are coming out of homelessness. We meet a sweet old man in their common dining room. Their idea of housing is one small room not even the size of my daughters’ bedroom. Shared bathroom and kitchen.
I catch myself so many times, the magnitude of the need is so great, the weight feels so heavy. And the reality of life, of Christmas, as someone without even a bed to sleep on? Truly, I can’t really even imagine what that feels like. So instead of crying this time, I treasure that we got to be the ones to bring the socks. That we could have a tiny part in warming cold, worn feet.
No matter who you are or what your resources, there is something EVERYONE can do to change their part of the world for good. My sister saw a need and created a fantastic monthly event at her church, deemed it “Diapers and Donuts” and they provide diapers for mom’s with little ones and provide something even more vital, community, love.
If we all did the small things we were able to in the circles of life we walk in, I honestly (perhaps idealistically) think the world would be a different place.
We left the shelter and headed to our next stop and as we drove by the upscale trendy shops in the heart of the city, one exclaimed from the back of the van….”Oh look, they must be loading food boxes for Children of the Nations!” It was actually a box dropping off the latest merchandise for Macy’s. Slightly cynical, I explained no, it was in fact not meals for starving children but more “stuff” that people were convinced they needed and they would likely spend the next few months paying for. In their young minds, it made more sense that it was boxes of meal packets.
I remember how I skipped my beloved coffee spot on the way to pack meals on Tuesday night, not because I’m awesome – I’m anything but, an absolute sinner every day, swimming in a sea of grace. But because I was calculating in my head that at $.25 per meal, my cup of coffee could buy 16 meals to fill the bellies of kids who have NOTHING.
Socks, coffee….small things yes. But the sum of all the small stuff, all the little things we think no ones notices or don’t matter? It does. It makes a difference for someone.